Art, Book Reviews, Korea, Uncategorized

North Korean Art (Review)

Review of BG Muhn, North Korean Art: Paradoxical Realism (Seoul Selection, 2018), 80 pages   Americans, if they have seen anything of North Korean art, have probably caught glimpses of the propaganda posters that occasionally appear in newspaper photographs of North Korean street scenes. The more knowledgeable North Korea watcher might be familiar with the… Continue reading North Korean Art (Review)

Books, Fiction, Security, Uncategorized

A Fairy Tale from 2050

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I testified before the great assembly of our land. When I describe this event to children today, it really does sound to them like a fairy tale. Once upon a time — a time before the world splintered into a million pieces and America became its current disunited… Continue reading A Fairy Tale from 2050

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

The Rubik’s Cube of Roma Rights

Many European organizations, the Open Society Foundation among them, have put a great deal of money and energy into addressing the issue of Roma. Some progress has been made. Roma parliamentarians, business people, journalists, lawyers, and academics have for instance pushed for equal rights for the Roma minority in their respective countries. They are the… Continue reading The Rubik’s Cube of Roma Rights

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

From Solidarity to Business

When I met with Mariusz Ambroziak in 1993, he was secretary for the Solidarity trade union in the Mazowsze area around Warsaw. He’d been a Solidarity activist for most of his life, starting out as a young worker involved in the famous Solidarity chapter at the Ursus tractor factory in Warsaw. But by 1993, he… Continue reading From Solidarity to Business

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

Poland’s Uncivil Society

During the 1980s, Poland had perhaps the strongest civil society in the world. The Solidarity trade union movement, created in August 1980, eventually counted 10 million members, a quarter of Poland’s population. And when the government cracked down on Solidarity, declaring Martial Law in December 1981, the opposition was strong enough to survive underground under… Continue reading Poland’s Uncivil Society

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

Poland on the Economic Periphery

Poland is in the center of Europe. Poles often stress that their country is in Central Europe, not Eastern Europe. The title of Norman Davies’ immense study of Poland is The Heart of Europe. Indeed, throughout history Poland has been central to the European experience, from the medieval curriculum at Jagiellonian University in Krakow and… Continue reading Poland on the Economic Periphery

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

The Energy of Delusion

The literary scholar Viktor Shklovsky once attributed Tolstoy’s success as a novelist to the “energy of delusion.” The Russian writer was committed to constant trials and experimentation. He had a seemingly endless capacity to put himself in the position of what the Russians like to call a “holy fool” and look at the world as… Continue reading The Energy of Delusion

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

Making Green Cool Again

It was certainly cool to be an environmentalist in Hungary in the 1980s. Demonstrations against the government’s plan to build a dam on the Danube drew lots of young people. Opposition to the Communist government, even in the more politically acceptable form that the incipient Green movement took, attracted the counter-culture, the dissidents, and the… Continue reading Making Green Cool Again

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

The Future of Social Movements

Throughout East-Central Europe during the Communist period, social movements were on the margins, repressed by the governments, declared illegal. The exception was Yugoslavia in the 1980s where the women’s movement, the peace movement, and other groups not only operated in the open but had some impact on public policy. This was particularly the case in… Continue reading The Future of Social Movements

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

Returning Poland to Europe

Central Europe had been kidnapped, the Czech writer Milan Kundera once wrote in a celebrated essay from 1984. It had been dragged eastward by the Soviet Union after World War II. And like a displaced person yearning to return home, the region couldn’t wait until it could rejoin Europe after the fall of the Berlin… Continue reading Returning Poland to Europe

Blog, Eastern Europe, Interviews, Uncategorized

Could the Yugoslav Wars Have Been Avoided?

When I traveled through Yugoslavia in 1990, a number of people confessed their fears to me. They were worried about the rise of nationalism, particularly in Serbia with Slobodan Milosevic. They were concerned about the economic situation – the high level of national debt, the overall stagnation, the persistent gap between the more prosperous northern… Continue reading Could the Yugoslav Wars Have Been Avoided?

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

Islamophobia in East-Central Europe

It’s often said that anti-Semitism continues to exist in Poland even in the absence of a large Jewish community. The recent Polish film Aftermath, about a farmer who uncovers the terrible truth about his village’s treatment of its Jewish community during World War II, makes that point vividly and tragically. The same can be said… Continue reading Islamophobia in East-Central Europe

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

Church and State in Poland

Poland has one of the stricter laws on abortion in Europe. Abortion is illegal except if the life of the mother is at risk, the fetus has a major defect, or the pregnancy is the result of a confirmed rape. Poland, Ireland, and Malta are the only countries in Europe that do not allow abortion… Continue reading Church and State in Poland

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

The Market Before the Market

When East-Central Europe made the transition to market economies after 1989, journalists sometimes referred to the process as “overnight capitalism.” This gave the impression that the countries in the region were Communist one day and capitalist the next. In fact, the market was present in most of the countries in the region in one form… Continue reading The Market Before the Market

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

The Problem of Trust

On April 10, 2010, Polish President Lech Kaczynski traveled with his entourage to Russia to attend a commemoration of the Katyn massacre. In 1940, the Soviet NKVD murdered 22,000 Polish army officers, police, and intellectuals in the Katyn forest and then pinned the blame on the Nazis. In 1990, the Soviet Union finally admitted its… Continue reading The Problem of Trust

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

The Moral Revolution

Some of the most powerful critiques of the Communist governments in East-Central Europe were moral. Vaclav Havel, for instance, argued that the regimes, with their propaganda and inequalities and corruption, were built on a foundation of lies. He proposed the alternative of “living in truth,” which in its rejection of collaborating with a system of… Continue reading The Moral Revolution

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

Working on Behalf of All Minorities

A fundamental element of majority privilege is the blind universality that members of an ethnic, religious, racial, or sexual majority often unconsciously embrace. They believe that their perspectives are held – or should be held – by everyone. They think that everyone celebrates Christmas, wants to get married to someone of the opposite sex, or… Continue reading Working on Behalf of All Minorities

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

Negotiating the Transition in Poland

The great transformations of 1989 began with the announcement early in the year that the Polish government would begin Round Table negotiations with the Solidarity trade union movement. It was an unprecedented move. There had been uprisings from below and crackdowns from above. There had been revolutions from within and interventions from outside. But for… Continue reading Negotiating the Transition in Poland

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

The Pankow Peace Group

It was one thing to establish an independent peace group in Poland or Hungary during the last decade of the Communist era. Freedom and Peace challenged military service in Poland, where there was a long tradition of independent organizing. In Hungary, perhaps the most liberal country in the region outside of Yugoslavia, Dialogus opposed nuclear… Continue reading The Pankow Peace Group

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

Working with the Marginalized

Until the 1970s, drug addicts didn’t exist in Poland – at least not officially. In those days, drugs were expensive and the supply was limited, so the Polish state could hide the problem by giving a different label to the small number of addicts. But then heroin became more readily available, in part as a… Continue reading Working with the Marginalized

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

Human Rights in Poland

It can be a nightmare to become entangled in the Polish legal system. You could be charged with a crime, for instance, and thrown into pre-trial detention. This detention could even last two or three years. One person was even held for nearly eight years. Abuses in the court system, lawyer Adam Bodnar with the… Continue reading Human Rights in Poland

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

Building the Women’s Movement

In retrospect, it seems obvious: Polish women didn’t really have a seat at the table during the transformation 25 years ago. The Solidarity trade union movement was dominated by men. During the Martial Law period, women stepped into critical positions when the government arrested the top (male) leaders, but their contributions were largely unrecognized. Only… Continue reading Building the Women’s Movement

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

Solidarity Underground

Before its triumph in 1989, the Solidarity trade union spent more of its existence in the shadows than as an official movement. It started in August 1980 in Gdansk and remained legal until December 1981 when the Polish government declared Martial Law. For the next seven years, Solidarity went underground. Ewa Kulik was one of… Continue reading Solidarity Underground

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

The Politics of Youth

A generational shift is slowly taking place in the politics of East-Central Europe as the figures responsible for the changes in 1989 are giving way to a younger group of politicians who were not old enough to be politically active at that time. This younger generation of politicians takes membership in the European Union for… Continue reading The Politics of Youth

Blog, Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

The State of Romanian Extremism

Romania Mare (Greater Romania) was founded in 1990 first as a magazine and then as a political party by two former court poets of the Ceausescu era: Corneliu Vadim Tudor and Eugen Barbu. As its name suggests, the ultra-nationalist party has been dedicated to expanding the borders of Romania to encompass Moldova and parts of… Continue reading The State of Romanian Extremism